Back pain is no tea party! Anyone who has suffered one can attest to this. The maddening pain, the inconvenience, and the general unpleasantness that go with it are better imagined.
Yet, we are all susceptible to back pain for many reasons. According to General Practitioner, Dr. Joke Anifowose, the most common cause of back pain is muscle tension. She says anxiety can increase muscle tension which, in turn, can increase back pain.
She explains, “Our back contains a variety of muscles that are known to tense during stress. This can lead to mild-to-severe back pain in both the upper and lower back. And that is why you have to recognize your triggers and avoid them.”
She warns that while back pain can affect people of any age, it is significantly more common among adults aged between 35 and 55 years. She says any back pain that leaves you sleepless and generally makes life miserable for you should be reported to the physician without delay.
This is because while back pain may be due to benign causes, some back pain may also be an indication of life-threatening diseases ongoing in the body.
Causes of back pain
Anifowose says that among people who use steroid or those who abuse drug, back pain is a common travel companion. She adds that those who are HIV-positive and others with compromised immunity are also more susceptible to back pain.
Again, those who have strained their muscles and ligaments should expect back pain as a consequence, Anifowose says.
She notes that many people don’t know how to how to lift heavy stuff. “If you lift anything improperly, or if you lift anything that is too heavy, your back will suffer the consequence,” she says.
She says the condition is common among pregnant women because of the weight of the growing foetus.
“The same goes for those who sit down all day to do their job, as sedentary lifestyle predisposes to back pain. Again, if you are obese, the weight may lead to back pain.
And if you are a gym buff, the doctor says that strenuous physical exercise, especially if not done properly, can lead to back pain.
When you should be concerned
Experts note that just as there are cases of low back pain that should make you run to the hospital, so is it possible to have back pain if you can’t manage your back properly.
Anifowose notes, “Sometimes, back pain may be a warning sign of cancer, an autoimmune disease, or due to spinal cord damage. That is why you cannot neglect a lingering back pain.”
Experts counsel that if back pain leads to weight loss, high fever, swelling on the back, pain down your legs, or if it is due to a blow that you got in the back, then don’t delay to see the doctor.
“Again, if you notice that you now pee unintentionally or if you have difficulty urinating; if you poo unintentionally, and if you feel numbness around the genitals, anus and your buttocks, visit the hospital, as many things may be going wrong already,” she says.
Foods that fuel your pain
“You are what you eat, says the adage.” Therefore, in order to save yourself from developing back ache or living with one, watch what you eat.
Consultant Nutritionist, Dr. Simeon Oladimeji, says we should eat in less quantity foods that are rich in saturated animal fats such as fatty beef, lamb, pork, poultry with skin, beef fat (tallow), lard and cream, butter, cheese etc.
“These foods contain arachidonic acid, which can cause inflammation in the body,” Oladimeji intones.
Foods that check pain
The nutritionist says eating low-fat foods or non-dairy foods will reduce the possibilities of developing inflammation. Such foods include oily fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines and salmon. Again, he urges the consumption of low-fat or no-fat dairy products, lean cuts of beef and pork, and skinless chicken and turkey.
You may also have to ditch processed or white flour baked goods such as cakes, donuts, etc.; and excessive eating of white rice and white bread, which have no nutrients to offer apart from calories that make you fat.
“In fact, processed foods often use up valuable nutrients such as magnesium in the process of metabolising, but have nothing nutritionally useful to give in return. Instead, eat more green leafy vegetables, oats, and beans, as they are rich in magnesium, which encourages the proper absorption of calcium.
“Without sufficient magnesium, calcium may be dumped as painful crystals in and around the joints. Magnesium also helps muscles to relax. People with low magnesium levels tend to feel more pain generally,” Oladimeji says.
Again, instead of sugar, eat more fresh fruits such as pineapple, pawpaw, mango, guava, etc. These all contain digestive enzymes that help reduce acidity in the body.
Drink more water, less caffeine or alcohol, which use up magnesium and vitamins B and C in the body, leading to inflammation.